21-Only debate brewing in Iowa City - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

21-Only debate brewing in Iowa City

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IOWA CITY (KWWL)-  Iowa City is weeks away from a vote on an issue that's been dividing the city for years.

The ordinance keeping people under 21 years old out of the bars after 10 p.m. was overturned by a vote in 2007.  Thursday morning the two sides of the issue squared off in a debate put on by the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce.  The first-of-its-kind forum was open only to chamber members.

The two sides of the 21 only debate didn't find much common ground Thursday morning.

The one thing they did agree on, safety is priority number one.

''I fear for the safety of my kids and for the safety of the 19 and 20 year olds that are the kids of other parents across this country. They're better off where we can see them,'' said Jim Mondanero, co-chair of the newly formed anti 21-only Iowa City Safety Committee.

''This is an effort to follow solid public health research that says that reducing access for 19 and 20 year olds, helps reduce consumption, it doesn't solve the problem but it helps,'' said Iowa City mayor Matt Hayek, who is serving as co-chair of the 21 Makes Sense Committee.

Hayek says police data shows in the three and a half months the 21 ordinance has been in effect, it's been working.

''All sorts of criminal statistics, whether it's calls to 911 or a problem, or an actual arrest, have dropped in the three and a half months this year versus prior years.''

Mondanaro fired back that the data is misleading.  He believes underage drinkers are partying elsewhere.

''You think that the 19 and 20 year-olds because of the data the council and chief of police wants you to digest is all being drunk inside a bar.  I don't agree with that.''

And then there's the debate on ordinance's economic impact.

''If there's 12 thousand people that come downtown, you need to learn to embrace those people who are looking at this from a business aspect,'' Mondanaro said.

''Purdue, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, East Lansing, Penn St., Wisconsin.  All communities that are either 21 by law or by policy.  They are thriving college communities.  We are and will continue to be a thriving college community,''

It's rhetoric that will continue in the days leading up to November 2nd.

Online Reporter- Jason Epner

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